Annie Negri loves to fish. So it was a natural connection when, three years ago, staff at the Alternatives’ program for people with disabilities she attends conceived of a catch and release fishing contest open to the community and free for all. To offer such an event, they needed a community partner. The Blackstone River Watershed Association was another natural connection.
For three years Alternatives and the Blackstone River Watershed Association (BRWA), together with the Department of Conversation and Recreation (DCR) and the MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, have invited people of all ages and abilities to take part in the Family Fun Fishing Day. The event’s planning committee, of which Annie has been an active member since day one, has grown the Fishing Day each year, always striving to make it make it bigger, better and more accessible for those who participate. Experienced anglers are welcome, but so are first-timers. If you don’t have a pole of your own, that’s no problem; volunteers are there to literally “hook you up.”
This year’s Family Fun Fishing Day was held on May 20 at River Bend Farm in Uxbridge. Over one hundred and fifty people took part, a record for the event. In addition to fishing, the event included instruction on casting and tying techniques, face-painting, food from Uxbridge First Holiday Night, and opportunities to learn about the importance of building and maintaining a healthy watershed. New to the event this year was free ice cream from the Fidelity Bank Ice Cream Truck.
Prizes were donated by Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Annie took on the role of handing them out to winners in three age groups. In the children’s category, Brody Joyal won for “most fish caught” with 25 in total. Aidan Russell won “biggest fish” in the children’s category with a 15” carp. Winners in the teen category were awarded for “biggest fish” and “runner up.” They were Isaiah Twumasi with a 13.5” carp and Brendan Drobinski with a 13” carp. Sandra Christine won in the adult category for “most fish caught” at 8 fish. Martin Columbo won “biggest fish” in the adult category with an 18” carp.
“This event is remarkable in that it draws such support from the community,” said Jennifer MacNeill of Alternatives. “But what’s most special to me is that this partnership between Alternatives, the BRWA, and the DCR has enabled someone like Annie to take on a role and really be valued for it. Embracing the contributions of everyone and giving back to the community at the same time, is really what we’re all about.”
If you’d like to learn more about Alternatives, visit AlternativesNet.org. For information on the Blackstone River Watershed Association, visit BRWA.org.